Though you can’t beat his showmanship, Sir Elton John wouldn’t be Sir Elton John without Bernie Taupin.
The meeting of Taupin and John was documented in the new Taron Egerton-led biopic, “Rocketman”: The two answered an ad by Liberty Records that was looking for songwriters. While they were impressed with John’s musicality, he had no lyrics to go along with his melodies. In the film, Ray Williams throws him a folder of lyrics (including Taupin's) and tells John to try to find something he could work with. What resulted was a songwriting partnership that’s withstood the tests of time.
Songs like “Tiny Dancer,” “Bennie and the Jets” and “Saturday Night's Alright” were the brainchild of Taupin (with contributions by John, of course, but still), so we would all would be remiss to dismiss Taupin in lieu of John’s stage presence and absolutely unreal musical talent. Which is why it was so important for screenwriter Lee Hall and director Dexter Fletcher to get “Rocketman” right in Taupin’s eyes.
When Taupin was handed the first script, he fretted, as I’m sure any creative would when handed a story about their life that they didn’t have a direct hand in (though John and his husband David Furnish were both producers on the film, Taupin was not).
“I questioned the original script -- I wasn’t happy with it,” Taupin told TIME before the film’s release.
While his reasons were likely more personal than anything else, he suggested some minor changes and ended up happy with the end result, especially with how the filmmakers juxtaposed the fantastical, imaginative elements of how John’s music was enjoyed with the brutally accurate drama that afflicted him.
“It’s extraordinary payback for a lot of hard work,” he said. “Dexter took it from something that could have been quite cliche and traditional to another plateau.”
We already knew that John was pleased with the film, so hearing that Taupin (the major driving force in both the John portrayed by Egerton in the film and, we can assume, the reality of John’s career) agreed is heartening.
Throughout “Rocketman,” we see John struggle with both needing love and learning to deal with the absence of it. Between his cold father (who eventually started a new family whom he had plenty of affection for) and disinterested mother, John’s emotional responses were stunted as he grew up. Not to mention navigating his sexuality in the 60s, which led him into the arms of John Reid, a toxic relationship that lasted longer than it should have. As a seemingly last-ditch effort at love, there was his quickie marriage to and subsequent divorce from Renate Blauel.
Along John’s long road to finding love (he's happily married with children!), Taupin was the one constant, the one person who truly loved John for everything he was and wasn't -- and it’s that brotherhood that leaves you with a flutter in your chest at the end of the film.
“Rocketman” uses this relationship to drive the film, and though the theme of feeling undeserving of love was laid on thick, there are worse ways to propel a great biography.